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Skin Concern


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How to Layer Skincare in the Correct Order

How to Layer Skincare in the Correct OrderOkay, so you’ve gathered your favourite skincare products that work for your skin type and you’re ready to rock the routine. Simple, right? Unfortunately, this is not always the case. With all of the exorbitant types of products, from serums, masks, retinol to facial oils and more, figuring out when to use what product can get quite confusing. Remain calm. We’ve got you! Here are the basics when it comes to knowing how to layer skincare in the correct order so you get the full benefits of your products.

Why it Matters to Layer Skincare in the Correct Order

Different skincare products are important for different reasons. Some help moisturize while some help exfoliate. To keep skin glowing and healthy, an effective routine is needed to hydrate, treat wrinkles, reduce congestion while protecting from sun damage, blemishes and fine lines. Not everyone wants a 10-step or even a 5-step routine, but there are a few skincare staples everyone should own: cleanser, exfoliator, moisturizer and SPF.

retinol serum
Nu Age – Encapsulated Retinol 1.0 Serum

You’re spending your hard-earned money on your skincare products so knowing how to maximize their efforts is important. By knowing how to layer skincare in the correct order, you allow the actives to penetrate better and do their job, which will make a huge difference in your skin, especially in the longterm.

Layer Skincare in These Steps

The basic rule of thumb is to apply products from thinnest to thickest. You don’t want to lather on a thick moisturizer then apply a thin serum afterwards, as it could prevent it from penetrating into skin. Cleansers will always come first, regardless of how thick.

antiaging cleansersCleansers

Cleansing skin is an incredibly important first step in every skincare regimen. You want a clean canvas for the steps to come. Cleansing removes dirt, excess oils and other unwanted debris and dead skin cells off your face.

Opt for a cleanser that is pH balanced and free of irritants, sulfates, detergents.

Toner and/or Essence

A toner is going to be the thinnest consistency in your routine. Press in your favourite product to wash away any last traces of dirt or impurities while balancing skin. A toner can provide additional benefits to skin if there are concerns you want to target, such as antiaging or acne. If your complexion is dry, you may want to skip the toner or also use an essence after. A watery, lightweight essence drenches skin to provide that extra layer of hydration and nutrients.


basic skincare routine Apply your serum directly to damp skin, which will help efficiently deliver the actives into the skin for the most benefit. Lighter serums should go first for maximum absorption.

Lightweight and efficient, serums contain a potent blend of targeted active ingredients formulated for a specific purpose. (1)

Keep it simple. We recommend using 1-2 serums at a time to help ensure all ingredients are effectively absorbed.

You might want to mix up serums, depending on am/pm routine. An antioxidant serum, such as Vitamin C, will amp up brightening and protection efforts when applied during your am routine while a retinol serum would work best in your pm routine.

Eye Cream

Yes, we recommend you use an eye cream. The skin in this area is the thinnest and most delicate on your face and one of the first areas to show aging. An eye cream is strategically formulated to help reduce puffiness, dark circles, and crepiness.


Seal the deal with your favourite moisturizer. Even thin moisturizers are generally thicker than your serums and absorb slower than other products, working to lock in moisture.

SPF (am)

Don’t skip sun protection! This should be your last step of layering in your morning skincare routine, as it sits on the surface of your skin to act as a shield from damaging UV rays.

Mineral-blocker sunscreen ingredients sit on the surface of the skin to reflect away UV light,” explains Zeichner. “So it is not as important for them to be applied as a first layer. In fact, they can be applied as your last layer as a protective coating against the sun.” (2)

Fitting in Other Skincare Products

Facial Oil (pm)

Are you a facial oil gal? If you are, this should be your last step, after your moisturizer. This is because it’s occlusive, so it creates an extra (oil) layer to seal in softness, creating a barrier of protection. Facial oils are great for those whose skin is extra dry and generally preferred to be used during the pm routine.


Using a chemical exfoliant, such as glycolic acid or salicylic acid, a few times a week will help keep skin looking and feeling its best. Depending on your skin type, tolerance and age will determine how often you should be exfoliating. Most experts say to use a chemical exfoliant 2-3 times a week as long as skin tolerates it well. Physical scrubs should be used less frequently, 1-2 times a week.


“Retinol works wonders in revving up cell turnover and collagen production.

Depending on your level of sensitivity. Apply them in either two ways:

  1. Use retinol after moisturizer. If your skin is on the sensitive side, a moisturizer will act as a buffer to minimize irritation.
  2. Alternatively, use retinol before moisturizer — this way a moisturizer can help boost its effects.”


Pumpkin Puree – Resveratrol + AHA Repair Mask

Masks and Peels

Many peel-off masks and peels have different types of ingredients which target a number of skin concerns, including skin radiance, antioxidant protection, skin-tightening, acne treatments and uneven skin tone. Depending on your skin type and the concern you want to address will determine the kind of mask you use and how often. Follow the directions on your products, taking note of its ingredients and how long to leave it on.

Clay – detoxification, purifying, deep cleansing, congestion, acne

Cream – dehydration, dryness, pampering, relaxation

Gel – refreshing, delivering nutrients

Enzymes – gentle exfoliation. treat rough, uneven texture, brighten skin

AHAs/BHAs – antiaging, hyperpigmentation, radiance

Skincare Layering Dos and Don’ts

  • Pair your Vitamins C + E together for maximum antioxidant protection.
  • Vitamin C should generally be the first serum. L-Ascorbic acid is a highly water soluble molecule so you want your skin to be clear of products to ensure it penetrates deeply while the product is active.
  • Retinols should be used during your nighttime routine, as they can be drying and irritating.
  • Don’t use too many products. If skin is breaking out with acne or rosacea, your skin might be telling you to scale it back a bit.
  • Don’t over-exfoliate. Start slow and work your way up.
  • Everyone’s skin is different. What works for one person might not work for you.
  • Don’t mix exfoliants. For example, don’t use glycolic acid and retinol on the same night.
  • If you must use makeup wipes, don’t apply your skincare directly after. Make sure you properly cleanse skin first.
  • Refrain from harsh cleansers and toners that strip skin and leave skin vulnerable.


(1) How to Layer Serums and Oils the Right Way. J. Racho. Dermstore.

(2) Should You Apply Sunscreen Before or After Moisturizer? Dermatologists Weigh In. M. Mackenzie. Allure.

(3) AM vs PM: A Step by Step Guide to Skincare Layering. Pillowtalkderm.